Attacks on Premadasa must stop


I read print, electronic and social media in both English and Sinhala, the latter being my mother tongue. To my dismay, the slanderous campaign against Sajith Premadasa, which was launched well before the Presidential Election, has been reignited.

When Premadasa was gaining a ground swell of support from UNP voters for the Presidential candidacy, the "thoroughly ineffective, stubborn, and self-centered" (as another correspondent called him) leadership of the party, launched a bitter, highly personal attack on Premadasa. These attacks scarred him and gave SLPP hacks all the ammunition to undercut his chances of winning, even before the campaign began.

Under intense pressure, the party leadership eventually yielded, but the nomination was a poisoned chalice. The Yahapalanaya government had already been tarnished, nay paralyzed, by the bond scam, open corruption, bickering among its leaders, and the Easter Sunday bombings. Yet, with barely five weeks before the election, Premadasa took up the challenge and campaigned tirelessly, often alone. My heart went out to him.

Then, attempts were made to sabotage Premadasa’s campaign. For one, the government prepared to sign the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which was already facing stiff opposition from religious and ethnic groups. Accusations of millions of acres being granted to the USA, of Sri Lankans needing visas to travel to Anuradhapura, were swallowed wholesale by a gullible electorate. Then, Ranil Wickremesinghe openly stated that he would be the PM even after a Premadasa victory. UNP supporters and fence-sitters, longing for a change in the leadership, were discouraged and may have refrained from voting.

A decisive general election is looming. Unless the UNP gets its act together, a landslide defeat is almost guaranteed. The newly minted SLPP government has already displayed its shortcomings and vulnerability: except for the President, there wasn’t a single new face in the Cabinet, and many of the ministers have been accused of corruption and misdeeds.

Premadasa has a solid voter base of 5.5 million. The future of the UNP is in his hands. With young unblemished leaders like Harin Fernando, Harsha de Silva, Erin Wickramaratne and others, he can provide new hope to disgruntled party supporters and reinvigorate the party. But first, the proxy attacks on Premadasa must stop.

A two-thirds majority to the SLPP would be a disaster for the country.



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